Some things happen when you least expect them. Lorna is about to learn this the hard way as she accompanies her first love on a romantic engagement that will leave her emotions in an entirely unexpected state.
The sky was clear, and the stars began to appear. One by one, they twinkled into the darkening blue. Gazing up at them from the patio table of the restaurant's back deck, Lorna smiled. No luminescent pollution. No city light to mask the beauty of the night.
"I was skeptical at first," she admitted, "Though now I know."
He looked at her from across the table, wiping his chin with a serviette. The smile moved from her lips to his. And then, for a long moment, they looked across the wood table, into each other's eyes. Their faces sparkled in the candlelight.
And then he spoke, "I drove us out of the suburbs and past the farmland, to see the stars. Though all I can see is your eyes."
Lorna blushed, What's he planning?
The candles' flames danced between them. The ambient glow pulsed with ancient nostalgia that stirred her unconscious. It whispered to her, of older times. When men and women met around campfires at the mouths of caves. It soothed and relaxed her. She closed her eyes.
"Happy birthday, sweetheart," he whispered.
It was precisely what she wanted, after her friends had surprised her. Something quiet, romantic and calm. Something, some sweet nothing, to focus on her and not her age. Thirty. Lorna was expected to have gotten a promotion. To have gotten married. To be with child. It was all so far away, to her.
The waiter came outside, and placed a single modest serving of decadent chocolate cake before them. Then he left, like a ghost, without a word.
The disappointment of her parents. The shadows of her siblings. She was disconcerted. All she wanted was to be alone, and special, with him.
The lids of her eyes rose, and the smell of vanilla from the candles teased her nostrils. Lorna looked down at the cake, tongue moistening lips.
Each bite tasted richer than the last, laced with veins of cherry, and crunchy chunks of darker chocolate. The bitter sweet cocoa. Her mouth watered, and her wine glass emptied.
The bill came, and he passed the waiter a card. It returned, and he signed. Lorna rose, adjusting her shawl. She looked out over the woods beyond the roadside. And smiled, at the wind in the conifers, that blew cool air through her hair.
They left the fine dining restaurant at nine o'clock. The sunset was now just a faint blur of purple on the forested horizon. The parking lot was across the quiet road. She could see their silver sedan in the shadow beneath an oak. Already, she could hear the classical music of the car stereo, and the motor roaring to life at his touch.
She stopped, in her tracks, and turned around. She thought he had stopped to tie his laces. The beautiful restaurant framed the quiet roadside before him, with thick forest on either side. The dirt road was bare and windswept. He was kneeling, on one knee. In his hands, a satin box.
Lorna's heart jumped, and her right hand rose to her gaping mouth. Her breath, which had been taken, returned. She looked down, into his charismatic features.
"Lorna Janet Pivette," he paused with deliberate emphasis, and opened the box. The diamond ring shone in the twilight. "May I take your hand in marr--"
The sport utility vehicle hit him straight on, as the driver tossed a beer bottle out the window. The glass bottle hit Lorna on the forehead, and she fell backwards into the ditch, unconscious. The man's laughter and the manslaughter, echoing in her mind.
Justin Kerne fell in bloody pieces at the opposite side of the road, forty feet away, dead at the end of a red smear. The man in the SUV just kept driving. He had not even noticed the bug that had hit his windshield.
She craved solace.
A golden diamond ring fell, sparkling, to the dirt road.